Paul Pogba is often accused of baring his teeth when he plays for his country and not for his club.
The Manchester United midfielder’s impressive performance when France won the 2020 Euro Opener against Germany on Tuesday did little to dispel such proposals.
Pogba made a decisive contribution to his team’s victory with a great pass, which ultimately led to Mats Hummels’ own goal. He won tackles, kept track, and showed intelligence and discipline to fend off the Germans.
It was a display that showed Pogba bite – and maybe got bitten. Literally. The 28-year-old seemed to suggest to the referee that he had bitten him in the shoulder by the German Antonio Rüdiger in the first half in Munich.
For Pogba it was all part of an eventful night – a solid start for his country in Munich.
Pogba shines again on the international stage
Pogba’s second term at Manchester United – the club he returned to from Juventus in 2016 for a then world record of £ 89million – was tumultuous. Last December his agent Mino Raiola said the midfielder was “unhappy” at Old Trafford and had to leave. With France, however, it is different – as his World Cup medal in 2018 proves.
On Tuesday he was a model of focus and flair – a wonderful loft pass where the outside of his shoe was the only goal.
He also delivered the most passes by a French player in the German half, was involved in 20 duels for the ball (more than twice as many as any of his teammates), scored three team-height interceptions and won a game in possession of the ball 12 times.
It earned him the honor of UEFA as the “star of the game”.
BBC sports expert Jermaine Jenas captured the mood with the following tweet …
“We call it a snack”
Rüdiger’s encounter with Pogba in the first half was one of the many talking points of the game.
Repetitions remained inconclusive, with the German defender placing his mouth on the back of his opponent, who then protested to the referee in such a way that he assumed a bite.
Officials made little of it as both players had apparently resolved any differences full-time, but that didn’t stop Ian Dennis and Dion Dublin from discussing the matter on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Dublin said: “It looked like he was taking a lump out. There was no anger or malice, it just looked like he was trying to get Pogba up.”
Dennis added, “There was a bit of silence from the lambs. It looked like he was tempted, but at the last moment he kept his mouth there.”
At the Match of the Day, Rüdiger’s former Chelsea teammate Rob Green gave an insight into the defender’s mentality.
“He’s just trying to get a reaction,” said the former England goalkeeper. “It’s not a full bite, but he knows his team will struggle to contain him.” [Paul Pogba] and he thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this. I’ll try something. ‘”
Former England international Alex Scott added: “When it comes to your mind as a player, you know the number of cameras [there are] and reps and you can’t get away with anything. We call it a snack. “
Meanwhile, enjoy the incident on social media …
“I expected more from France, but they’ll say, ‘Who cares?”
Back to more serious matters.
France’s victory did not convince many of our experts, most of whom selected the world champions as their likely winners before the tournament.
Although Didier Deschamps’ team could not live up to the great hype, it did what was necessary and clearly had additional gears in the further course of the tournament to advance.
“France has just crossed the border,” said Dublin. “They were a little lucky when they needed it. I expected more from them, but they’ll say, ‘Who cares?’
“They’ll be happy to look awful. They don’t seem to have harmony off the pitch, someone is always moaning, but when it comes to the game it doesn’t seem to matter. The cream always goes up and that’s what” happens to France.
“The quality of football is very good and the players shown are very, very good.”
The last word goes to former Blackburn and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton, who sees no cause for concern for the favorite: “If the French show up and show their skills, they will win.”